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Japan’s former prime minister Taro Aso says his country should join AUKUS in order to allow the US, Australia and Japan to speak with one voice to signal their opposition to a change of Taiwan’s status through force.

Aso, who joked the defence could be renamed ‘JAUKUS’, also warned Chinese spies could infiltrate Japan as well as other countries, including Australia, as he defended his country’s strict migration policies.

Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks during a press conference in Beijing, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. Aso is on a two-day visit to China, where he met with Chinese Vice Premiers Liu He and Han Zheng on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)Credit: AP

“I would like to propose an ambitious idea,” he told the Australian Institute of International Affairs in Canberra on Monday night.

“How about we expand AUKUS to include Japan making it JAUKUS?”

He said expanding the membership of the defence alliance would mean the US, Australia and Japan could speak with one voice on the issue of Taiwan.

Aso’s proposal for the group’s re-naming was met with both laughter and a smattering of applause.

“We would, of course, have to discuss this with America,” Aso said.

Aso is the vice president of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democrat Party but said he was not speaking on behalf of the Japanese government.

Aso’s mentor, Shinzo Abe struck a deal with former prime minister Tony Abbott for Japan to replace Australia’s ageing Collins Class fleet of submarines.

But this “off-the-shelf” version was abandoned during the Liberal leadership spill when South Australian MPs forced Abbott to open the project to tender and a local build to shore up jobs at home instead.

The winning French bid was sensationally ripped up in 2019 by Scott Morrison in favour of nuclear-powered submarines.

Aso said Japan could contribute to Australia’s quest to acquire new submarines.

It is also hoped that AUKUS will lead to the joint development of new military technologies, including hypersonic missiles as well as space, quantum and artificial intelligence capabilities.

In his address Aso also said Japan was concerned that allowing too much migration from China could lead to allowing in large numbers of Chinese Communist Party agents.

He said that with one in four foreigners living in Japan coming from mainland China, it was “highly likely that one in ten or twelve of these Chinese individuals is a member of the Communist Party of China”.

“According to the charter of the CCP, if there are two other party members near you you must form a party branch,” Aso said.

“Opening Japan to foreigners means, in our case, automatically welcoming a large number of Chinese – this in turn would enhance the influence of the CCP in Japan.”

He said the same could be happening in other countries, including Australia, noting that a large number of Japanese companies hired Chinese workers.

“Caution is more important now than ever,” Aso said.

The reporter travelled to Australia as a guest of The Australian Institute of International Affairs and Japan Foundation.

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